A 7-9 start to the season might not sound like a good start, but for a young and inexperienced team coming off a putrid 6-26 campaign, it is a sign of progress.FAU has transformed in Mike Jarvis’ second year as head coach, evolving from the laughingstock of the Sun Belt Conference into a respectable team that is only getting better as the season unfolds.
16 games into the season, the Owls have already matched their win total from last season and currently own a winning record in conference play (3-2).
Pint-sized freshman guard Ray Taylor has been as good as advertised, and his performance against University of Miami in the Orange Bowl Classic on Dec. 19 drew positive comments from Hurricanes head coach Frank Haith. Taylor also shone in FAU’s thrilling triple-overtime victory over Warner Southern, performing in the clutch by hitting all 10 of his free throws in the third overtime.
Averaging 16.5 points per game, Taylor is one of several young studs on the team. Guards Greg Gantt and Alex Tucker are among the younger players who have performed relatively well thus far, and if you throw juniors Brett Royster and Sanchez Hughley into the equation, then you have an FAU team that is unquestionably more talented than its predecessor.
While the Owls are certainly an upgrade over last season’s squad, they are still learning how to play together and have loads of room for improvement. A 7-9 start isn’t something to brag about, and the team knows that their second half of the season must be stronger in order to finish with a winning record.
Looking at FAU’s remaining schedule, the team must improve its road form (currently a woeful 2-6) if it is to finish above .500.
Improving its play away from home is a necessity, but FAU must also continue to do well in its conference matches. A dozen conference games remain, and the Owls have a chance to not only bolster their record, but also make some noise in the Sun Belt.
Two of those are against archrival FIU and prolific head coach Isiah Thomas, who is in his first year coaching the Golden Panthers. FAU plays their southern foe twice in the span of three weeks, and a pair of wins for the Owls will likely have them soaring in confidence for the final games of the season.
If FAU can manage to accomplish that, and end its season with a winning record by showing an improvement in its game, then 2009-2010 can be labeled a success.
Remaining Home Games
1/21 vs. Arkansas-Little Rock1/23 vs. Arkansas State1/30 vs. Florida International University2/11 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette2/25 vs. Western Kentucky2/27 vs. Middle Tennessee State
Best Win – vs. Troy, 1/7FAU’s 83-69 conference triumph over Troy was as impressive as it was shocking. Not that the Owls are not capable of upsetting bigger teams, but the manner in which they thoroughly dominated the Trojans, leading by as many as 25 points in the first half, was jaw-dropping.
Worst Loss – vs. South Alabama, 1/2Leading by 13 with nine minutes left in regulation, FAU allowed the Jaguars to get back in the game by going scoreless for five minutes. The game went into overtime, where FAU allowed the conference bout to slip away, losing 96-93.
MVP – Ray Taylor: 16.5 points, 6.3 assists, 1.75 stealsDespite standing at 5-6, Taylor has impressed thus far with his nifty passing, lightning speed and ability to perform in the clutch. Taylor’s 23-point performance against UM in the Orange Bowl Classic was a stroke of genius, and FAU fans are likely to witness more of that in the second half of the season.